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Governor Abercrombie Signs Bill Vital to Hawaii’s Honeybee Industry

In conjunction with “Hawaii Pollinator Week,” which recognizes the role of honeybees and other primary pollinators as essential to many agricultural and horticultural operations, Gov. Neil Abercrombie today signed Senate Bill 482 into law to ensure the continued viability of honeybee operations in the state.

Gov. Abercrombie holds up the proclamation

Gov. Abercrombie holds up the proclamation

“We must encourage beekeeping operations of all sizes to ensure that honeybee stocks thrive in both managed apiaries and the wild, especially as bee populations have declined due to disease and invasive predators,” Gov. Abercrombie said. “SB482 will make beekeeping more financially viable for beekeepers to legally extract, bottle and sell honey by minimizing unnecessary administrative and bureaucratic requirements in ways that will not affect public safety.”

SB482, enacted today as Act 131, clarifies the maximum number of gallons of honey that can be sold by a certified honey house or food processing establishment without obtaining a permit from the state Department of Health (DOH). The measure also exempts from permit requirement sales of honey directly to retail stores that, in turn, sell the honey directly to consumers. In addition, the act provides for consumer protections by requiring honey producers to include appropriate labeling of each container of honey, take a food safety class, and make records available to DOH.

“Many small beekeepers have been unable to successfully navigate current regulatory hurdles required to operate a certified food-processing establishment on their own premises for the extraction and bottling of honey, which has resulting in many giving up beekeeping entirely,” said Hawaii Board of Agriculture Chairperson Russell S. Kokubun. “SB482 provides needed clarification to state law and greater flexibility to Hawaii’s honeybee farmers as not only a growing facet of our local agriculture industry but also a fundamental part of the long-term sustainability of the industry and the protection of our native habitats.”

Bee Polinator Week

After signing the bill, Gov. Abercrombie officially proclaimed June 17 through 23 “Hawaii Pollinator Week” to recognize the vital role of bees, birds, butterflies, bats and beetles in maintaining healthy, diverse ecosystems and productive farms in Hawaii and elsewhere throughout the world. Through the observance, all citizens are encouraged to be mindful of the habitats and public lands, such as forests and grasslands, and the conservation assistance provided by the State of Hawaii to promote wise conservation stewardship, including the protection and maintenance of pollinators.

Pollinator Week was first designated by the U.S. Senate and U.S. Department of Agriculture in June of 2007 and has been promoted annually by the Pollinator Partnership to address the urgent issue of declining pollinator populations. Varroa mites, small hive beetles, and nosema have decimated honeybee populations on the continental United States and recently throughout Hawaii.

 

Highly Contagious Honey Bee Virus Transmitted by Mites

Researchers in Hawaii and the UK report that the parasitic ‘Varroa’ mite has caused the Deformed Wing Virus (DWV) to proliferate in honey bee colonies. This association is now thought to contribute to the world-wide spread and probable death of millions of honey bee colonies. The current monetary value of honey bees as commercial pollinators in the United States alone is estimated at about $15-$20 billion annually.

Bees with varroa mite

The research conducted in Hawaii by researchers at Sheffield University, the Marine Biological Association, FERA and University of Hawaii, and reported in the journal Science (8 June 2012), showed how Varroa caused DWV – a known viral pathogen – to increase its frequency among honey bee colonies from 10% to 100%. This change was accompanied by a million-fold increase in the number of virus particles infecting each honey bee and a massive reduction in viral strain diversity leading to the emergence of a single ‘virulent’ DWV strain. As the mite and new virulent strain of virus becomes established across the Hawaiian islands the new emerging viral landscape will mirror that found across the rest of the world where Varroa is now established.

This ability of a mite to permanently alter the honey bee viral landscape may by a key factor in the recent colony collapse disorder (CCD) and over-wintering colony losses (OCL) as the virulent pathogen strain remains even after the mites are removed.

Honey bee populations can experience spectacular crashes. The most recent being the well publicized colony collapse disorder (CCD), but its cause remains a mystery.

Varroa is a large mite (~1.5mm x1mm) that lives on the surface of honeybees, feeding off their blood and reproducing on their developing brood.

The arrival and spread of Varroa across the Hawaiian Islands offered a unique opportunity during 2009 and 2010 to track the evolutionary change in the honey bee virus landscape.

The mite facilitates the spread of viruses by acting as a viral reservoir and incubator, although four bee viruses often associated with CCD (Kashmir bee, Slow paralysis, Acute bee paralysis and Israeli acute paralysis virus) were not influenced by Varroa in Hawaii.

One bee virus, the Deformed Wing Virus (DWV), has been implicated in colony losses, for example over wintering colony losses (OCL), as it appears to become ubiquitous wherever Varroa occurs.

DWV is naturally transmitted between bees via feeding or during mating. However, the mites introduce DWV directly into the bee’s blood while feeding so creating a new viral transmission route that bypasses many of the bees’ natural defensive barriers.

DWV is a tiny virus similar in structure to polio or foot and mouth virus and has only 9 genes.

DWV infected bees may display the classic wing deformity, but the vast majority of infected bees do not show any morphological signs of infection.

The dominant strain found on Oahu and now Big Island is identical to that found in other areas of the world indicating that the situation on Hawaii is a mirror to what has happened right across the globe.

Based on comparisons between the 2009 and 2010 the changes in viral diversity associated with Varroa appear stable and persist even after the parasite levels are reduced via mite treatments.

 

Queen of the Sun: What are the Bees Telling Us?

Media Release:

The Kohala Center invites you to “Queen of the Sun: What are the bees telling us?playing November 9 -11 at 7 pm at Honoka’a People’s Theatre. Queen of the Sun is a profound, alternative look at the global honeybee crisis from Taggart Siegel, award-winning director of The Real Dirt on Farmer John (showing in Honoka’a @ 5 pm on Nov 9 & 11). Special event night on Wednesday, November 10th with local beekeepers.

The Swarm is Gone! Mahalo to “Best Big Island Bees”

A few months ago I blogged about the swarm of bees in my backyard and posted this video of them swarming:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cWOQDmoiBxQ]

Well today, thanks to “Best Big Island Bees” and an “intern”, the bees were finally removed.

They had gotten in between two walls on an outside shed making them very hard to access.

More than three 5 gallon buckets of honeycomb were taken away!

The amount of bees estimated that he was able to capture and move was estimated at over 40,000.  The actual number of the nest itself was probably at least double that!

I’d like to thank Best Big Island Bees for removing this hive!